This article is not a criticism of the poor nutritional diet of the nation, but rather is an excoriation of the intellectual diet of society. Ludgwig Feuerbach, a nineteenth century German Theologian and student of Hegel first coined the term, “Der Mensch ist, was er ißt” (man is what he eats). Recently the term was made popular after Gillian McKeith’s Channel 4 programme “You are what you eat”, in which she pokes around people’s effluence and helpfully tells them where their lives have gone horribly wrong.
Instead of correlating food intake to the condition of the body and mind, I shall attempt to show that an over-consumption of just one discipline or one mode of thought often leaves the individual with one formulaic model with which to approach all problems. This in itself becomes problematic, as modus operandi is restricted and the metaphorical blinkers are on. Or in other words it is a “head-down, hands-up” approach to discovering and understanding the world we all live in. This is not a ‘call to books’, nor is it a ‘call to know everything’ as this is impossible! Nevertheless, it is important to remember to have a varied diet.
Let’s take a few examples: an historian, a minister (of the church), a military officer and an economist. Each of these individuals is likely to have a different take on the same situation. Let’s assume that a war broke out between country A and country B and our four intrepid intellects are looking for reasons why it did.
The economist may conclude that it was because of recession in country A due countries B’s economic might – this is because an economist is likely to be an economic determinist. The military officer may argue that the mankind is evil and conflict will always arise – combat deterministic. The minister will put it down to religious differences between the two countries – spiritual deterministic. An historian will examine the integrate details of the development of the two nations and conclude that war was inevitable from past conflicts between the two countries – detailed deterministic.
This is not to say that one method is correct – they all have their merits. However, nowadays too often people settle on an answer from their own past experience/education, and reiterate it onwards as their methodological approach, to the extent that it becomes embedded in civil society as the ‘right’ answer/approach – the ‘universal truth’. As a result, when one wishes, or even contemplates, to deviate from the ‘norm’ then problems arise, because the ‘set’ path is not being followed. Instead the development of ideas should be regarded as not static; they rather are to be seen as an evolving and continual process.
It is as if civil society is in a stage of likeness and stagnation, where homogeneity is rewarded. If you seek a military career then you are compelled to jump through the relevant hoops of combat in order to get onto the ladder of war. The same can be said about the majority of other disciplines. A job in business will require a ‘good’ business degree and a possible MBA, but does this really enhance society? Or is it only beneficial for those individuals involved in said practices, is the competitive nature in humans also simultaneously destroying human consciousness?
The job application process is another arena where differences in ideas can never be played out, and instead you must make a conscious effort to eat and regurgitate what the market wants. When one writes a cover letter or CV it invariably must be re-formulated to the common interests of the target organisation, and swollen with the generic jargon of appeasement: “I am a hard-working, motivated team-player who can work competently on my own.”
But it does not stop there: the interviewers are as much to blame as the interviewee. I mean this in the softest sense, as the process has become so commonplace for us all that we then neglect to question the obvious, thus prioritising immediate material concerns over wider ethical questions.
The interviewer is only likely to employ someone who is like himself or herself and so…we have the cycle of deprivation. The notion/cycle that like replaces like, which can only result in unvaried and a putrefied system, a hidebound society. But the drive for a survival/a job pushes us to accept without question – a ‘performance of dishonesty.’ Thus authorising the system and allowing it to continually exist.
A variegated diet is needed, not only to understand, but also to ask the mighty question ‘why’. Thus far the diet has lead to little more than a pseudo-comfort – a comfort for us, and not others, and we have lead ourselves into a cycle of indifference. Let, at this conjecture, say that not all activity thus far has been negative, a lot of positive has come from our rhythmical mannerisms. But we can do much better armoured with a healthy intellectual diet and common sense.